I am far from a one trick pony when I enter the voting booth, but this year bicycles and street safety will be near and dear to my heart when I cast my ballot. Bloomberg brought our streets into a new era, and the continuation of these developments should not be taken for granted.
While few candidates are outwardly “anti-bike” or anti-safety, when I listen closely, I start to notice hints that they are not truly committed to progress on city streets; codes that appear in phrases like “not well thought out” or “insufficient public vetting”. When I hear these terms, I understand from experience that candidate is open to tearing out a few bike lanes or pedestrian plazas, and certainly lacks passion for how our city can be impacted and improved through street design.
I have been very active in the community regarding bike lanes and bike share. The DOT and neighborhoods collaborated in Community Board meetings, and I cannot picture a longer and more vetted process. Where valid concerns were raised, I saw plans change. It was tedious but purposeful; each street alteration was always vetted through the Community Boards. If you hear one of the candidates raise the spectre of public review of already installed bike lanes, ask them to name one which was installed without Community Board support and approval. There aren’t any.
Bloomberg had progressive foresight for the need to improve our city streets for health and sustainability, and his leadership worked with Community Boards to implement them. Candidates however currently underwhelm me.
I have heard from that William Thompson would be friendly to progressive bike and street designs – all I know of him now is that he once said he would tear out a few bike lanes if he could. I could not find any current reference to bicycles/bike share on his home website.
Meanwhile, with the most funding, front runner Christine Quinn has been painfully toeing the “not enough vetting” line. I would love to hear her put forth a plan that I could embrace – so far her transit view consists of generalities about improving the transit and reducing travel times, but they appear more placating than informed. For being a front runner, the vagueness of her policy is the biggest disappointment.
Right now, Bill de Blasio is looking like the closest to a pro-bike candidate. He has moved significantly from his early “not enough vetting process” position, using words like “love them where they worked, tear them out where they don’t”. I do admire his new stance: De Blasio has a goal to increase the number of bicycle trips to 6% by 2020. (The Bloomberg administration set 3% as their goal during their tenure.) A few years ago, bicycle trips made up 1% of all NYC trips; given the runaway success of bike share, De Blasio may find we hit that number quicker than expected.
My vote is still reserved. It will go to the candidate who has a forward-looking plan, not a short-sighted, reductive one. Bicycles and street improvements have generated real change for health, sustainability and quality of life. It is time for Christine Quinn, William Thompson and John Liu to step up and let us know where they stand. The Bloomberg administration has set a very high bar, it is not a time to limbo under it.
Owner, Bicycle Habitat
PS Three days remain: Register to vote.
> UPDATE: Some resources on how to speak up for cycling during the elections.
Updated to correct the spelling of De Blasio.